Enjoying two of Ohio’s American treasures

Brandywine Creek
Water along Brandywine Creek plunges 65 feet over a rock cap of Berea Sandstone to the valley below. (Julie Geiss photo)

This year, I discovered the best way to observe Presidents Day. It seems obvious in hindsight; we should’ve done it years ago. 

On Presidents Day, we visited the McKinley National Memorial in Canton, Ohio, and then explored parts of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It felt like we honored two American treasures, one a hero to the American people and the other a relic of transportation and pristine natural refuge. 

Presidential memorial

The McKinley National Memorial is the final resting place of the 25th president of the United States, William McKinley and his family. He is remembered for his victory in the Spanish-American War and raising tariffs in support of American industry. 

Born in Niles and a graduate of Poland Seminary, McKinley opened his law office in Canton in 1867. He served as president from March 4, 1897, until his assassination Sept. 14, 1901. 

The day we visited the memorial, it was unusually warm and sunny. It was so sunny that it was difficult for our eyes to adjust to the brightness of the granite exterior. I could not fathom how the monument was built in 1905. 

McKinley National Memorial
The McKinley National Memorial in Canton, Ohio, is the final resting place of the 25th president of the United States. (Julie Geiss photo)

Fueled by donations

Fueled by the American spirit and their collective love for the president, many people donated their hard-earned money to cover the construction costs. The money to pay for the building came entirely from donations. 

Natural materials used in the memorial came in the form of donations from nine different states. Granite, marble, and bronze combine to give the building a powerful and stately feel. 

We climbed the 108 steps from ground level to the top of the monument. Impressed by the details and the colossal stones, we quietly walked around the outside of the dome. 

A famous quote by William McKinley states, “Let us ever remember that our interest is in concord, not in conflict; and that our real eminence rests in the victories of peace, not those of war.” The quote is meaningful still today as troops assemble along the Ukrainian border and the world watches and prays for peace. 

Ohio’s national park

Our day continued as we left the city and sought peace in nature at Ohio’s only national park. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, with recreational options including hiking, biking and boating. It is different from any other national park we have visited.

The 32,572 acres stretch between urban areas in Cleveland and Akron, with the Cuyahoga River winding through the valley. The biggest difference is the presence of roads and interstates within the park. Exploring every part of the park would take years. 

We chose to focus on my favorite springtime activity, hiking to waterfalls. I have to admit, we were a little overzealous. The unusual 60-degree temperature seemed balmy and perfect for hiking. However, the trails were still icy and treacherous at times. 

The first trail we chose is a part of the Buckeye Trail to Blue Hen Falls, a three-mile out and back trail that covers a mix of terrains. It is rated as moderate due to elevation changes. 

The ice on the trail definitely slowed us down, but the waterfall was worth it. The 15-foot waterfall still had frozen sides, but a steady flow from Spring Creek continued to flow over the layered rocks. 

Our second trail of the day was to the tallest waterfall in Northeast Ohio. Water along Brandywine Creek plunges 65 feet over a rock cap of Berea Sandstone to the valley below. A system of boardwalks enables closer viewing of the waterfall, although the lower portion was closed when we visited. 

The moistness in the gorge allows stately eastern hemlocks and maple trees to flourish. We had an unobscured view from the upper boardwalk since the maple trees had long lost their vibrant red leaves last fall. 

Out and about

Even though the waterfalls were breathtakingly beautiful, my favorite part was seeing people out and about after a long winter.

It’s true, winter might not be over yet. Just like our fellow hikers, we are emerging from our winter cocoon ready to take flight this spring. Only in Ohio can one skid across ice and trample down snow, while other hikers shed layers and bask bare-chested in the glorious sunlight. 

At one point during our hike, I was sweating and had shed layers down to my T-shirt. I glanced over and could see skiers flying down the slopes at Boston Mills Ski Resort. 

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is unlike any park we have visited. What makes it different is what makes it unique. We can’t wait to return to try some other options like biking and boating.


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Julie Geiss lives with her husband and four children in Unity Township, Ohio. Faith and family are first in her life, but she also loves hiking, biking and camping. You can contact Julie at juliegeiss1414@gmail.com.



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